Cultures clashing is the dubious experience of a second-generation America. But while race after race has been caught in the struggles between old-world and new-world traditions, it seems as if Asians have been the ones making an art of playing their family conflicts out in film.
The latest to do so is Chinese-Canadian filmmaker Mina Shum. And her effort, titled “Double Happiness,” is one of the more charming additions to the genre.
Jade Li (Sandra Oh) is an aspiring actress who spends her days living in the old-world atmosphere of her home. A Hong Kong native, Jade is very definitely a modern Canadian woman. And as such, she is torn between wanting to live her own life and pleasing her demanding, conservative-minded father (Stephen Chang).
So when she meets a shy, white student (Callum Rennie), and is attracted to his sweet geekiness, she finds herself stuck: Either she must give in to her parents’ wishes and settle down with a nice Chinese man, or she has to break away and seek the job she wants and find the life she needs with the man of her own choice.
It’s not an easy task to pull off. Jade’s older brother tried it and was disowned. The price of independence is high indeed.
As a filmmaker, Shum has a talent for cuteness. Working with an obviously low budget, she limits her settings (Vancouver, British Columbia, never looked so unrecognizable) and continually resorts to gimmicks such as characters addressing the camera, quick cuts, zooming close-ups and slow motion.
One slo-mo sequence featuring two characters on swings is the virtual definition of meeting cute.
But, for the most part, it works. Why? Well, because Shum’s story feels so authentic, her style so engaging, her intent so heartfelt.
Besides, Oh is a wonderful actress. Always in control, yet always so close to either getting rowdy or collapsing in tears, Oh makes Jade’s experience universal. Her passage to the clumsy shores of adulthood could be anyone’s.
From whatever country, of whatever generation.
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Photo
MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: “DOUBLE HAPPINESS” Location: Magic Lantern Cinemas Credits: Written and directed by Mina Shum, starring Sandra Oh, Alannah Ong, Stephen Chang, Frances You and Callum Rennie Running time: 1:27 Rating: PG-13